Drake, NYC Concert Review at Madison Square Garden, Setlist

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Drake was distracted as a rain of bras flew over him in rapid succession as Drake circled the stage in the middle of New York’s Madison Square Garden, urging fans to be kind to each other in heartfelt speech.

“I’m sorry, the bra really messed me up,” the hip-hop superstar said Sunday night, kicking his assortment of underwear. I was trying to say something motivational.

It was a moment of seriousness, overshadowed by childlike humor, that perfectly summed up Drake, a serious artist who thankfully didn’t take himself too seriously.

In the first of three sold-out shows at the Garden, followed by four shows at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, the arena offered audiences a nostalgic, high-concept exploration of their biggest hits—an “Eras” tour for bros, for example.

And the kids were there, many of them dressed exactly like Drake, with matching hairstyles and cropped beards. The brothers get excited and film each other while rapping every word with their idols. The brothers, in NYPD uniforms and badges, dizzyingly pull out their phones to shoot videos of Drake as they deal with a sitting dispute in the hallway. (Yes, that really happened.)

Drake knows he holds his fans tight, and he comically confirms that fact by selling a touring t-shirt that reads “I Love What Drake Loves”. He spent most of the show singing and pointing straight at the fans in the front row, who shouted every word of almost every song. During “Laugh Now Cry Later,” jumbotrons sniped at men in the audience who were overwhelmed with emotion, literally wiping tears from their eyes.

And so was Drake, who, to be honest, stopped the show several times to express his gratitude, dedicating the final moments to honor the late fashion designer Virgil Abloh, stating that “his ideas and energy are always with us.”

Oh yes – the music: Drake delivered a healthy mix of early fan favorites and recent hits. The show was split into four intermittent acts featuring a young actor playing a rapper during his teenage years. In one instance, he scrolled through the channels in his bed with a giant Peter Pan balloon floating overhead, until he stumbled upon the Canadian teen drama “Degrassi: The Next Generation,” which made Drake famous for the first time.

In a slow-paced first act, Drake clad in head-to-toe camouflage began with the “Take Care” deep cut “Look What You’ve Done” before moving on to the heart-wrenching ballad “Marvin’s Room” to end all the heartbreaking ballads.

When he returned for the second set wearing a military vest embellished with the Nike logo, he rose from the bottom of the stage to the soaring overture of “Over”, the first single from his debut studio album “Thank Me Later”. For the next half hour, the concert played like a thrilling summary of Drake’s career, from “The Motto” to “Started From the Bottom” to “Know Yourself” to “Nonstop” to “Nice for What.” During the “headlines,” the scene turned into a newsreel scolding Drake. In the ground-shaking “Sicko Mode”, he let the audience take him into the rhythm drop. And with “God’s Plan,” Drake threw both sides of the arena into a battle over who could sing louder—you know which. The best part was that Drake seemed genuinely eager to play his decade’s hits and watch the crowd explode as they moved from one to the next.

This was followed by a less exciting third act as Drake tried to “turn Madison Square Garden into a club” with Rihanna’s “Work”, EDM trip “Massive” and dancehall-influenced “Controlla” and “One Dance”. Drake took celebratory photos with Lil Yachty, Zack Bia and Davido, as well as other close friends and collaborators, who were opening from behind a DJ booth.

Before the final set, Drake left the stage and threw a generous spotlight on 21 Savage, who performed a dozen of his own songs solo. Then, sporting a new outfit, Drake joined 21 on stage for a few tracks from “Knife Talk”, “Rich Flex” and their 2022 joint album “Her Loss”.

Before leaving the Garden, Drake gave a motivational speech in which he encouraged fans to be grateful to be alive and spend more time with their families. In a conversation between inspiring and self-congratulation, he spoke about people who doubt themselves on their path to success.

“A lot of people said no to me,” Drake told the sold-out arena. “You want to know who said yes to me? Everyone in this building.”

Some might roll their eyes at one of music’s biggest stars constantly framing himself as a weakling, and that’s okay. But the more Drake performs, breathing new life into old classics with a high dose of candor, one thing becomes clear: It’s really hard not to like the guy.

Check out Drake’s tracklist below:

  1. look what you’re doing
  2. Marvin’s room
  3. to say something
  4. shot for me
  5. Can I do it
  6. feel no way
  7. tired
  8. forest
  9. On
  10. headlines
  11. Slogan
  12. HYFR (Hell You’re Right)
  13. Started from the bottom
  14. Energy
  15. Know yourself
  16. Unceasingly
  17. patient mode
  18. Road 2 Sexy
  19. BackOutBoyz
  20. Jumbotron Shit Poppin
  21. Laugh now cry later
  22. God’s Plan
  23. child’s play
  24. wait for you
  25. in my feelings
  26. nice for what
  27. check it out
  28. Very good
  29. fountains
  30. find your love
  31. work
  32. A Dance (Ampiano Remix)
  33. call my name
  34. bodied
  35. Sticky
  36. Search and Rescue
  37. Blade Talk (with 21 Wild)
  38. in BS (with 21 Savage)
  39. Spin Bout U (with 21 Wilds)
  40. Jimmy Cooks (with 21 Wild)
  41. Rich Resilience (with 21 Wilds)
  42. myth
  43. very worried

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